Kobayashi sets up F1 fund
KAMUI NEEDS CASH: Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi's future in F1 looks less than secure - unless he can secure sponsorships for 2013.
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Kamui Kobayashi, Japan's only current Formula 1 driver, is hoping a website campaign can help raise the funds to keep him on the starting grid in the 2013 season after being dropped by the Sauber team.
Speaking to reporters at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Friday after Sauber announced Mexican Esteban Gutierrez would be taking his place in 2013, Kobayashi did his best to sound confident.
MONEY FOR WRISTBANDS
He said: "We see I think still some seats that are available so we try to get a seat. If we can find some sponsors I think it is easier."
Kobayashi said money, or rather his lack of it, was "the main issue for sure" in why Sauber, who have several Mexican sponsors, had opted for Gutierrez alongside Germany's Nico Hulkenberg.
The Japanese driver shrugged and said: "This is Formula One. For Sauber it is my last race but for myself I think it is different.
"Everybody looks really worried but I don't really worry at the moment, I
try to work hard to get sponsors and find out what's available for next
Kobayashi, who arrived in F1 with Toyota support but no other backing, joined Sauber when the carmaker pulled out at the end of 2009.
He has huge popularity in Japan after finishing third for Sauber in his home race at Suzuka this season but he has suspected for some time that he would not be kept on at the team.
He said he was trying to harness some of the goodwill at home through a website, with the url posted on his Twitter account to 93 000 followers, offering wristbands in exchange for a donation.
"Suzuka had more than 100 000 people at the race... over the three days we had 200 000," said Kobayashi, comfortably Japan's most successful grand prix driver by career points scored.
"I think we have a lot of potential to get some money from the fans as well. It has been just two days but it's going to help my career for sure."
Force India, Caterham and Marussia still have seats available but all have made it clear that they are looking for sponsorship money as part of the deal.